Lily Kunin is doing more than one thing right. Alongside a full-time job in private philanthropy, she has a full-time audience through Clean Food Dirty City, an Instagram account she created last fall with a 52K (and growing) following. With a personal food delivery service, a column on Into The Gloss and brand collaborations in the works, Lily lets small steps take her to the big places she’s headed.

“I work for an incredible nonprofit organization—we operate urban public charter schools that prepare students living in low-income communities to enter, succeed in, and graduate from college. I’ve been doing this for 3 years, and started Clean Food Dirty City on the side as a way to document what I was cooking at home. My change in diet was brought on by a medical condition in 2007—I had chronic migraines and was on a schedule of medicine and neurologist appointments. My response to eliminating gluten was really dramatic—the day after I cut it, it was like a cloud lifted. Almost all of my symptoms disappeared. During my transition to a fully gluten free lifestyle, I began to pay attention to the food I was eating by starting to read labels and exploring health and wellness further. Clean Food Dirty City began as a way to document some of my favorite meals that I was cooking, and it developed from there.


I cook all of this and have a full-time job, so my goal is to create simple meals for busy people.

This goal is reflected in the simple approach I take with my photos—usually presenting them on a clean, white background. Keeping my identity reasonably hidden was not intentional, but I ended up keeping the focus on the food because of the imagery I’m personally interested in when I am looking for recipes on the busiest of days. It’s stripped down content, reduced to what you need when you’re busy and know what you’re looking for. Overall I think the popularity of wellness is really positive.


You’d want to hope that virtual community translates into real life, even if it’s just someone saying hello at the supermarket.

There are so many resources available now for people to educate themselves. On the other hand I think it can be really intimidating— like you have to make dramatic shifts in the way you live to become what is now considered healthy. I think it’s scary for people, when in reality little changes are really underrated and can make a big difference. I think that applies to everything in life, where it’s not just one thing that matters, it’s the culmination of small things. I count each tiny effort as a success, knowing that together they will become powerful.”


  • Eating well and looking after yourself is achievable, even if you are busy.
  • Don't limit your friendliness on social media to the virtual world.
  • Don't underestimate the power of small changes: success is a culmination of small victories.

i. @cleanfooddirtycity

t. @cfdc_nyc

As told to Amy Woodside, May 2014